On Nov. 22, 1963, between the Texas School Book Depository building in Dallas and a grassy knoll an event occurred that forever made a mark in history.
This month – Nov. 22 – will be the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He was the 35th President and a decorated U.S. Navy veteran for his heroism after the sinking of his vessel PT 109 (a movie by the same name starred Cliff Robertson as young John Kennedy).
President Kennedy and his wife Jackie were in Texas for his 1964 re-election campaign and spent the night in downtown Fort Worth at what is now the Hilton Hotel (then the Hotel Texas). They attended a breakfast in Fort Worth that morning and then flew on Air Force One to Dallas Love Field.
They were riding in an open convertible through downtown Dallas past the School Book Depository building when the sound of three shots was heard. The president slumped backwards while others realized what happened in the shocking event: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot. The motorcade was re-routed to the nearest hospital (Parkland in Dallas) where the attempts to save him by medical personnel were futile.
Wesleyan professor of History, Dr. Betsy Alexander, was 16 years old when this happened. She had recently gotten her driver’s license and had driven her younger brother to an orthodontist’s appointment in Fort Worth.
“Around 12:30 p.m., a nurse turned on the television to the news where we learned that the president had been shot,” said Alexander. “By 1 p.m., newscaster Walter Cronkite had announced that the President was dead.”
Shortly afterward Kennedy’s wife and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson got onto their plane in Love Field after Johnson took the oath of becoming the 36th president and the plane took off for Washington, D.C.
“It was such a confusing time,” Dr. Alexander said. “No one knew what was going on; everyone was very sad. No one knew who the gunman was; nobody knew anything. No one had any idea what was happening. People thought it was an attack on the government.”
Constant news coverage of this event lasted until JFK’s funeral, which was Monday, Nov. 25. It was coverage no one had ever seen before because normal network evening news only lasted 15 minutes.
“This one event changed that generation and onward,” Dr. Alexander said, “People want to believe that it changed their world that way it did. It had to; we wouldn’t know what would have happened if Kennedy had lived.”
There is a reprinted entire newspaper from Nov. 23, 1963, to commemorate the 50th anniversary, and it can be found at most local Walgreens and CVS stores.